Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 17 01:48:16 UTC 2005



On 10/16/05, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Eggcorn?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Oct 16, 2005, at 2:04 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> >> From Letters in today's NYT Magazine:
> >
> > "[NP] may have caused more than one clerk a reprimand, if not a job."
> >
> > Presumably, what the writer was reaching for was:
> >
> > "[NP] may have cost more than one clerk a reprimand, if not a job."
> that's just as bad as the original.  the problem is that if X causes
> Y NP, Y receives NP, but if X costs Y NP, Y gives (up) NP.  so "may
> have caused one clerk a reprimand" is fine (the clerk gets/receives a
> reprimand, i.e., is reprimanded), but "may have cost one clerk a
> reprimand" is not, at least if understood in the historical sense
> (the clerk does not relinquish a reprimand) -- though it's possible
> that some people have extended "cost" to mean 'be negatively
> affected', in which case it might be possible for the second object
> to be understood as denoting the negative consequence.  the question
> is whether some people can say things like "My one mistake cost me a
> final grade of D" 'the cost to me was (that I had to accept) a final
> grade of D'.  for me, that's just impossible, but i could see how it
> could happen.
> but there's nothing wrong with "may have caused one clerk a
> reprimand".  there *is*, of course, a problem with "may have caused
> one clerk a job".
> in any case, this looks like blendish rather than eggcornish.
> arnold

-Wilson Gray

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